Why Karaism: The Same Old Same Old

For the major content of this hub I'm actually directing the interested reader over to my blog site where the major points of this discussion are taking place. As previous hubs of mine have indicated, there's an ages old debate that is ongoing between Karaites and Rabbanites. Each side is determined to point out the error of each other's ways. Unfortunately, when we as Karaites last did this successfully in the tenth century, it resulted in persecution, violence, death and exile.  There is a website on which one Rabbi Gutman-Locke expounds his version of Judaism and today decided that he would use the opportunity to ridicule the Karaite believer who questions the authority of the Rabbis.  He does not present his arguments very well, proclaiming that because his feels holiness when he speaks and performs certain rituals, he knows for a fact that God approves the statements of the Rabbis as His own commandments.  This is exactly what we as Karaites have always found contemptible.  That men actually believe they have the authority to speak for the Almighty and put words in His mouth.  Not only to do so but proclaim they are no different than the Judges of the Tanach. How presumptious is that?  For the full argument see  http://fromthewritehand.blogspot.com/2009/12/when-truth-is-lie.html

The Women of Bene Israel
The Women of Bene Israel

The Teluga Jews of India

 As an interesting sidenote, I am in communication with a Jewish community that refers to themselves as the Telugu Jews of India. Much of their history has been lost but they allude to their origins taking place around the tenth century coming from somewhere to the north-east. In this historical background they are not dissimilar from the Bene Israel, one of the identified Jewish communities of India that had appeared without any established historical record at about the same time.  The date and location corresponds to the time period that many of the Karaites were forced to escape for their lives from the oppressive edicts of Sa'adiah Gaon. These Telugu Jews are part of the untouchables, a beleagured lower caste in India's societal structure.  In many ways they represent everything I have been fighting for.  As a small community they were under constant pressure of the Hindu majority, relegated to the status of second class.  When the Christian missionaries came they were pressurized to adopt Christianity with the lure of better paying jobs if they did so.  Many did succumb and convert but a small remnant held on, adhering to their ancient religious traditons though much had been lost over time.  Their lack of any Talmudic documentation, practice of only certain holy days would suggest that they truly were part of the Karaite exodus from Mesopotamia.  Their reception by the Ahskenazi Jews is at the best lukewarm.  There is suspicion that they may not really be Jews. I counter that with "What is a Jew?"  If it is not someone that adheres to the Torah, that believes there is only God, one God and no others,  that suffers the persecution and prejudice of the outside world, that has born losses and tragedies for no other reason than they refused to abandon their beliefs, then I am at a loss as to what the criteria might actually be.  If it is only as the Rabbanites insist, that they are born of a Jewish mother, a mother that has some stamp of approval because she's white, European, or 'certified Kosher' by a Rabbinical court, then sadly God will only be able to shake his head in despair at these misguided notions of Jewishness, thinking back to the days when he brought a mixed host out of Egypt.  Men of all colour, of all nations, some Semitic, some not, and forged them into a nation by marching them into the desert for forty years where they had to learn to depend upon one another in order to survive.  But to my Karaite brethren, I say, "yes, these are our people.  They have proven it so with their stubborness in the face of affliction," and we welcome them openly like a long lost sibling returning to our home.  One of their members Naomi has asked me to help them by providing them with books and teachings from our communities.  I ask the Hachams to hear her plea and let us embrace them whole heartedly.  I encourage all of us to help send them the materials they need to ensure their faith in what is a hostile world. I have their contact address and if we can collect books on Karaism, and even Karaite sefers, please let us unite our people as one.

May the Lord bless all of them in what should be our endeavour and may he show us his mercy as we help those that are unable to help themselves.

Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana

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Comments 4 comments

Kahana profile image

Kahana 7 years ago Author

Thank you Alan. Of interest, 30 years before Yeshua made his quote, the similar teaching was expressed by Hillel. But in that one he expressed it as "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do until you." Though the difference might seem subtle it was far more insightful. According to Yeshua, if you wanted to get in a fight with someone because you liked fighting, then it encourages you to attack them. But in Hillel's case, if you didn't like getting hurt because of the fights you started, then you wouldn't hurt someone else. Hence, you couldn't start a fight. Though subtle, far more meaningful.

alanbedford 7 years ago

Thank you. I always tell Jews to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But they usually respond: "That's a Christian teaching, not a Jewish mitzva!" That mentality is going to lead the Jews to another destruction and another exile, just as Ezra's racist doctrine eventually led to the destruction of Israel and 2,000 years of persecutions. I applaud you and the Karaites for swimming against the current and standing firm in your faith.

Kahana profile image

Kahana 7 years ago Author

Alan, my condolences to your sister-in-law regarding her father. Even though it was a long time ago, it is still a crime of the prejudices existing amongst the Ashkenazi rabbanites. It is a horrible thought to think that Jews can be so hateful in spite of all we have faced over the centuries. That's why I want to make a difference with our brethren in Telugu. I want them to know amongst Karaites they are welcome. Unlike the Bene Israel, this community has been rejected by the Rabbis. They feel there is no hope. I believe we can change that.

alanbedford 7 years ago

My brother in Toronto is married to an Indian Jew, so I forwarded him your article. Here are his comments: "I read Kahana's piece on the Teluga Jews of India.

I was not previously aware of this group. Through Mazal, I am, of course, aware of the Bene Israel Indian Jews and from my understanding, they trace their origins in India back to at least 2,000 years ago, not 1,000 years ago. In any event, many of the customs and religious practices of the Bene Israel focus more on pre-Talmudic events than do many other Jews. Paradoxically, this resulted in them appearing more traditional/"religious" than many others, while at the same time, often having their Jewishness called into question by the rabinnic authorities. In recent times, this discrimination has lessened in Israel, perhaps at least in part due to the fact that they have gradually adopted more of the mainstream Sephardic practices." My sister-in-law told me that she and her family were fairly wealthy in India and lived among the upper-middle classes, but when they went on aliyah to Israel in the 1950s the immigration authorities ordered them all to strip and be sprayed with DDT, as if they were filthy and lice-infested. "Welcome to Israel!" Her father had been a respected architect in India, but the Israelis didn't allow him to work in his profession; that profession was reserved for only Ashkenazim, and the only job he was given was planting trees in a kibbutz, and he died shorty thereafter of a broken heart.

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